Law and religion round-up – 17th September

Brexit (inevitably), school dress codes, clergy employment, humanist marriage, religious karaoke – another mixed bag…


On Monday, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was given its second reading: Ayes, 326: Noes: 290. The Bill stands committed to a Committee of the whole House for eight days of detailed debate.

The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government both declined to recommend that legislative consent be given to the Bill by their legislatures unless it is amended to address their specific concerns.

Primary school uniform

Also on Monday, we reported the case of a husband and wife who had withdrawn their six-year-old son from his Church of England primary school after a boy in his class was allowed to wear a dress to school. Continue reading

Balancing mission, aesthetics and heritage of parish churches – further considerations

In our post, Balancing mission, aesthetics and heritage of parish churches, we noted that the Church’s consistory courts are frequently required to weigh up the relative merits of proposed building work for repair or modification in terms of their impact on the heritage and aesthetics of the building against its overall mission within the community. Continue reading

Ecclesiastical court judgments 2016

Index to ecclesiastical court judgments reviewed during 2016, and links to reviews in 2014 and 2015

The judgments reviewed in L&RUK during 2016 have been grouped under the following headings. Continue reading

Ecclesiastical court judgments – December

In addition to this final round-up of consistory court and other judgments for 2016, we have published an index to all the cases report which includes links to more general posts associated with these judgments. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 27th September

Faculties (& total ignorance), copyright, sharia, toe-curling church music – and that news story: a mixed week

Bishops in the House of Lords

House of Lords Business Papers for Thursday 17 September 2015 indicated that along with a the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE and Shaista Sheehan, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced to the Upper House on Monday 26 October at 2.30 pm. Bishop Rachel’s details are here. The new Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, will take the place vacated by the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Lichfield, who retires next week after forty years of ministry.

Bishop Christine’s Confirmation of Election Service took place after Evensong at York Minster on 22 September; the Consecration Service will be held on 30 November at York Minster; and the Inauguration Service in the Diocese of Newcastle will be held at St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle on Saturday 12 December.

Further examples of clergy disregard for faculty jurisdiction

The cases reviewed in our September round-up of consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations all contained examples of clergy disregard for the faculty jurisdiction, to a greater or lesser degree, and all involved works under the provisions of an archdeacon’s licence. In Re St Peter & St Paul Bassingbourn [2015] Ely Const Ct, David Etherington Ch temporary changes under an archdeacon’s licence resulted in “Heath Robinson” arrangements for screen and projector, the latter “[sitting] on a dinner tray set on top of a temporary board placed on top of the pews”, and poor electrical installation for which “a hole cut in the Rood Screen with exposed cabling [was] but one example”.

A strong message was sent by Chancellor Mark Hill QC to the diocese in the judgment Re St Thomas Sutton-in-Craven [2015] West Yorkshire & The Dales Const Ct Mark Hill Ch, which concluded:

“This judgment is disproportionately lengthy for what is a relatively straightforward petition. It has thrown up several procedural matters, the exploration of which may not have been dispositive, but they have been addressed and explained as way marks in the legal landscape in which the consistory court of the newly-formed diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales must operate, in common with every other diocese in the Church of England.”

Complete disregard for the faculty jurisdiction resulted in a censure for the priest and PCC in Re St Bartholomew Kirby Muxloe [2015] Leicester Const Ct David Rees Dep Ch but as in the other cases, one wonders whether these situations would have arisen had there been the “rigorous enforcement … expected from archdeacons.”


Coincident with David handing over his PCC copyright responsibilities this week was the news from the US District Court in California in relation to the song frequently sung, impromptu, at the end of Mass and on all sorts of other ecclesiastical occasion, “Happy Birthday”: see Rupa Marya et al v Warner Chappell Music Inc, et al US Dist CV04460 (CD Cal) 2015. As Jack of Kent points out, Continue reading

Consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations – September

Chancellor warns new diocese on strict compliance with ecclesiastical law, priest; PCC censured for disregard of faculty provisions; unsatisfactory “Heath Robinson” measures introduced under archdeacon’s licence; and new lighting schemes for two cathedrals

Relatively few judgments and determinations have been announced this month. However, on 16 September the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered a written question from Mark Hendrick MP about regulations relating to churchyards in Blackburn Diocese: “which Church of England dioceses have published regulations on monuments on burial plots and inscriptions on gravestones; which dioceses (a) allow and (b) do not allow nicknames on gravestones; which dioceses allow monuments; which dioceses (i ) allow and (ii) do not allow pictorial etchings on gravestones; and which dioceses (A) allow and (B) do not allow freestanding containers on burial plots, [9765]”.

Mrs Spelman informed Mr Hendrick that the information requested is not held centrally, and while there is central guidance available, each Diocese and Parish applies the regulations to their local circumstances. In relation to their local application, he was directed to the Diocesan Registrar for Blackburn and to the Diocesan guide to the churchyard regulations, [page 4].

Had such a request been made under the Freedom of Information Act, it is likely that it would have been refused on the grounds that dealing with it would have cost too much and/or taken too much staff time. However, the inquiry does raise the question of why it is necessary for each of the Church’s 40 UK dioceses to produce its own version of the central guidance “to suit local circumstances”, when such issues are more likely to be relevant at parish rather than diocesan level. Continue reading